Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Just Under the Hypothalamus

It was a dark and stormy night. Undisturbed by Nature’s temper tantrum raging just outside her window, she slept deeply and dreamlessly. The previous day’s events, although not catastrophic as she had feared they would be, had left her bone-weary and emotionally drained. Knowing that this was not a night for mindless television nor meaningful conversation, she had kissed her family goodnight and headed off to ready herself for bed two hours earlier than usual. After brushing her teeth and washing her face, she had put on her favorite worn pink T-shirt, turned the fan from low to medium and crawled between the soft, floral sheets.

Within minutes she was soundly asleep, oblivious to all that was around her. Hours later, when her husband clicked off the lamp, turned on the music and slid into bed beside her, she was unstirred. The snores of her little dog, which usually had her wishing for earplugs, were unheard. The thunder boomed and the lightning flashed, and still she slept. Aware only of the fact that she was sublimely comfortable, she let out a small sigh that sounded like “Ahhhh,” turned onto her left side and snuggled her cheek into the cool spot on her pillow. Suddenly, the walls shook and a shrill, terror-inducing wail sliced through the night air, making her bolt upright in bed.

Ok. It wasn’t stormy and it wasn’t night. (I just love saying, in a deep voice British accented voice, “It was a dark and stormy night.”) It was, however, dark. The “shrill, terror-inducing wail” was actually the alarm clock’s annoying little beep beep beep waking me up waaaaaay before I was ready to be awake. I, in fact, did not “bolt upright in bed,” but reached blindly toward the bedside table and felt around for my glasses. Once I finally found them, and every other unnecessary necessity that cluttered the surface, I poured myself out of bed and headed off to the bathroom. I already knew this was going to be one of those days.

I had spent most of the day before fretting and worrying about my 1:30PM appointment with doom my doctor. The very appointment where she would tell me my cholesterol was so bad that nothing short of an IV infusion of Drano could possibly lower it. The same appointment where she would say to me, “No, no. You don’t need to lose weight. You just need to grow 12 inches.” And the appointment where she would look at my blood sugar results and determine that the only thing sweeter than I am is a Krispy Kreme donut covered in chocolate syrup with whipped cream and sprinkles on top. As is turned out, my cholesterol was great, I had lost 5 lbs and my blood sugar was darn near close to normal. What a waste of all that fretting and worrying!

Of course, after a good report from the doc, I felt invincible and eager to attend the Extreme Couponing workshop scheduled for later that evening. After all, a healthy, vibrant, intelligent young thing like me should be quite capable of grasping even the most complex couponing strategies. Excited and sure that I would soon learn to feed my family gourmet meals on a budget of $0.29 a week, I signed in, (with a borrowed pen because mine dried up before I had even completed the B in my first name!) Two hours later, I left with a full bladder, a toothache from clenching my jaw and a head that felt like spiked ping-pong balls were bouncing around in it. I guess I had expected Extreme to mean extremely easy to understand. I guess I was wrong. I went home, took a Goody Powder and went to bed. And slept “deeply and dreamlessly” until that hateful alarm clock woke me up.

As I stood there in the kitchen making coffee, I talked myself into a really nasty mood. “Why does he need coffee, breakfast and lunch?” (I didn’t mention to myself the fact that, in just a few minutes, he would be heading out to work 12 hours in a hot steel mill.) “Am I the only one who ever fills up the sugar dish?” “Could these animals be any needier? I mean, why can’t they just go to the bathroom like the rest of us and then get themselves a Pop Tart or something?” Clearly, my CPABC (The Center for Promoting Awareness of Blessings and Contentment - it’s a little glob of nerves in your brain right near your hypothalamus. Trust me, I’m a nurse.) was malfunctioning. Otherwise, I would have remembered that it was not only a privilege, but one of my greatest joys to take care of my family at any hour of the day.

With a great deal of effort, I got everyone fed, watered and off to work. As soon as the door closed behind JD3, I locked it, called Gracie and we went back to bed. Where again, I slept “deeply and dreamlessly.” And again, a “shrill and terror-inducing wail sliced through the air.” The telephone. It was Mama. “Are you up?” she sang. (I am now. And I want to hurt you.) “What time do you want to go shopping this afternoon?” (Oh, crap. I did tell her I would go with her to buy curtain fabric, didn’t I?) We talked just long enough to set a time for my next appointment with doom her to pick me up.

Since there would be no more sleep, I decided to ease slowly into the day. I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to check my email and read my favorite blogs. I played with the dog and let the cat out. I made my breakfast and forced myself to drink a big glass of water. About an hour before the appointed time, I took a shower. About 45 minutes before the appointed time, Mama came bustling through the back door.

“I know I’m early but you’ve just got to keep Stan’s Father’s Day present here for me.” (No, I don’t mind. Really. I’d be glad to.) “I just love your new canisters let me show you what I got for him I started at Kohl’s but didn’t really like the sale they had going so I went to Penny’s instead where the sale was better and I got all of this for less than $80 so you say a friend sent you those canisters well wasn’t that nice of her they look real pretty there I’m ready anytime you are.” I was pretty sure she didn’t hear me when I told her that I also was in possession of the pretty salt and pepper shakers that matched the pretty canisters.

As soon as I was dressed, we got into her little blue truck (it’s really purple, but she says “blue”) and headed down the road – the middle of the road! I tried with all of my might to lean hard to the right, in hopes of pulling her back into her lane, but I was unsuccessful. The looks of sheer terror on the drivers of oncoming vehicles left her unmoved. Because she was looking at me, telling me all about her kitten and her doctors’ appointments and why she was driving the truck that made her knees hurt to climb in and out of it and how Stan was home working on the car now and she sure hoped he could get it fixed soon (I was doubtful, because he is decidedly un-handy) because this power steering didn’t seem at all like power steering to her.

Surely, Guardian Angels were with us, because we arrived at Hancock Fabrics unscathed. However, we didn’t find exactly what we were looking for so we got back in the truck and went to check out the fabric department at Hobby Lobby. There, we found the perfect fabric, only there was a good deal less than the 20 yards she needed. The nice sales lady informed us that her supervisor could order it for us if we’d like. We told her that yes, we would like and off she went in search of Miss Tallulahbelle. (The names have been changed to protect the kind and very patient innocent.)

While we were waiting, Mama decided that she would get 22 yards “…just in case. I’d rather have a little extra than not enough.” Agreeing with her, I told her that if she did have left over, she could always use it to make napkins. “Ooh, that’s a good idea,” she said as Miss Tallulahbelle walked up the counter and asked if we were the ones who wanted to order 20 yards of this lovely blue and white fabric. “Yes,” Mama says,” I’m making curtains for my kitchen she’s going to help but I think I’m going to get 22 yards instead because that way I’ll be sure and have enough and I figure if I have any left over I can make matching napkins.” (Didn’t somebody just say that?) “Good idea,” says Miss T. “Now, I’ll need a name a phone number?” When she heard Mama’s name, she said that it sounded familiar and asked her if she was from around here. “Well, my husband was born in Oklahoma but grew up in Texas and then spent 30 years in the Navy and then moved around quite a bit so we say he really is the man from nowhere.” I don’t know if Miss Tallulahbelle was at all interested but she smiled anyway. Since I’ve heard that story 9623 times, I was not so inclined.

Fortunately, Hobby Lobby is next door to Lowe's so it was a short, safe drive to our next stop. We were in search of PVC pipe (or PCV pipe as Mama chooses to call it,) curtain clips and cup hooks, which we were planning to use as hardware with which to hang our beautiful new curtains. We made our way to the window treatments, where we looked at some pretty, but expensive metal brackets and decided against them. Sticking to the original plan to use cup hooks, we put three packs of clips in our buggy and went in search of pipe.

As I stood in front of a bin holding 5-foot sections of half-inch pipe, calculating how many we would need and which connector we should use to make a rod long enough to span the big, middle window, Mama motioned for me to “come here. Here it is in 10-ft pieces. We can just get one of these.”

“I don’t think it’ll fit in the car, Mama.”

“But we have the truck.”

“I don’t think it’ll fit in the truck, Mama.”

“Oh, sure it will.” Undaunted, she wrangled that 10 feet of flop-doodling PVC pipe out of the bin and into the buggy, (well, sort of into the buggy.) Somehow managing to maneuver to the cup hook aisle without impaling anybody on our pipe, we looked for a big ol’ hook that would accommodate our half-inch pipe. (I knew it was half-inch pipe because there, in bold black letters right beside the bar code it said, “1/2 inch PVC .”) It seemed that any thing that was big enough to hold the pipe would also leave a ghastly hole in the wall. Thinking that I needed to think this out some more, I suggested to Mama that we just get what was in our buggy and we would figure out the rest later.

“Oh, no. Let’s just ask this nice man.” Well, this nice man was not. Nice, I mean. Apparently, his little red vest was too tight in the arm pits. Or he was busy wishing he had stayed retired. Or maybe his moon wasn’t aligned with Jupiter or something. But he wasn’t nice. He sighed, turned his pinched little face towards us and, sounding like he’d rather be counting his screws, asked what he could do for us. I explained to him what we were trying to do and what we were looking for to help us achieve our goal. Faster than Billy the Kid, he whipped out a tiny steel tape measure and measured the pipe. “You have half-inch pipe here.” (Really? No kidding?) “I don’t think there’s anything here that will help. You should try over in Window Treatments.” I explained to him that we had already looked there and really didn’t want anything that expensive. “Well, I’m just trying to find something that will help you,’” he snipped. Well, you didn’t, but if I ever need to scare small children, you’re the man I’ll come looking for. Before I could say anything out loud, Mama took me by the arm and led me to the check-out.

When we got to the truck and tried to put the 10 feet of still flop-doodling pipe into the bed, about 4 feet of it hung out of the back. “I don’t think this is going to work, Mama.”

“I’ve got bungee cords. And we’ll tie that hat to the end of it.” Said hat is a now-pink Santa hat that has been riding on the passenger head rest for over 2 years.

“You can’t bungee PVC pipe, Mama.”

“You don’t think? I know, let’s try to stick it in through the passenger window. That might work. You’ll just have to hold on to it.”

It didn’t work. Instead of hanging out of the back, it was now flailing out to the side of the truck. Knowing that howling at your mother in a public parking lot is not only breaking the Fifth Commandment, but is probably also considered trashy and therefore, socially unacceptable, I calmly told her that I didn’t think we were going to be able to get it home in this truck. So what did she do? She marched back in Lowe’s with pipe in hand and exchanged it for 4 5-foot sections and one connector. Can you say, “Aaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhh?!”

When our goodies were secured totally in the back of the truck, we decided it was time for a late lunch. After mulling over all of our options, we made the short drive to Zaxby’s for one of their great grilled chicken salads. It was a short drive, but I had plenty of time to fear for my life as did the man who happened to be leaving the parking lot as she was driving in. For some reason, he seemed bothered by the fact that she was turning into his lane! Passing a parking spot that she could have simply driven into, she chose one that required her to pull in and back out. And pull in and back out until she was within her white lines. It was, after all, two feet closer to the door.

Part of the reason we had chosen Zaxby’s and salads was that earlier, we both had talked about eating healthier and taking better care of ourselves. So, when the cute little girl behind the counter asked if she could take my order, I said, “I’ll have the blackened Bleu Zalad,(they call them Zalads, isn’t that cute?) no dressing and a cup of water.” Mama then said, “I’ll have the House Zalad with extra Ranch dressing. And sweet tea.” Shaking my head, I chose a table for us and waited on them to call our number. Soon, the salads were ready and they looked delicious – fresh green lettuce, orange carrots, purple cabbage and bits of white cheese sprinkled about. The kind of salads that you see in magazines and advertisements. Three servings of dressing later, Mama’s looked more like potato salad than the healthy one she had chosen from the menu. We asked God to bless our food (and I added a silent request for my safety on the trip home) and ate our lunch.

Finally, the day was over and I was on my way home. When the truck came safely to a stop in the driveway and I climbed out, I tamped down the urge to fall to my knees and kiss the ground. Because she had consumed a lot of tea, Mama came in to use the bathroom and as she walked by the table, she said, “Oh look. I didn’t know you had the salt and pepper shakers, too. Aren’t they cute?!”

It had been a long day. But when I got home, my sweet Annabanana had been standing on the back steps with her arms open waiting to give me a hug. Gracie was standing just inside the back door, her whole body vibrating in greeting. She, too, had given me a hug, albeit a painful one. JD3 had driven up just as Mama was leaving. Here they were, this family that I had groused about taking care of early that morning; these people (and animals) that I love more than anything in this world and who were as happy to see me as I was to see them. They listened and laughed as I told them about Hobby Lobby and the “PCV” pipe and the mean little man. As I told my story, I realized how blessed I am to have a nearly 70 year-old mother who is healthy and able to take care of herself and drive me nuts on a regular basis. I guess my CPABC wasn’t malfunctioning after all.

Please stop over at chatting at the sky for more Tuesdays Unwrapped


Tee said...

Thanks Bee for that CPABC adjustment! Mine's been trying to act up lately too. Especially where the pets are concerned. Wouldn't it be great, though, if they could feed, water, and clean up after themselves?


Dawn said...

i need a nap just reading about your day!! but you made me laugh... although if this is real, i might be crying! so glad youlived to tell about this adventure... and lived to be thankful, too!

Doodles said...

OK the flop doodling thingy had me in tears.

Could y'all do me a favor take a camera with ya.

Anonymous said...

So, this is perfect. Especially with the mental image of Mam-ma wrestling with PCV pipe. And I know the truth behind her driving and the leaning; I've done it myself, as I've told you.

JulyG319 said...

Dang girl, I keep saying you need get all this published, you just have a way with words.
I could totally picture it all in my mind, even the head shaking, which I believe was probably accompanied by eye rolling.
I love reading what you write!!! Thanks for the smile!!!

The Greggs said...

I think I nearly woke the babies up from their nap while reading about the pink Santa hat! Thanks, lady; you're the greatest! I see bits of my mom and some of my in-laws in your mama.

Kim said...

Bee....what can I say but, BRAVO! You are a talented writer who needs to be published. Seriously, I think you should submit some stories to your local paper and see it they'd agree to let you do a weekly article or something. You're too good to be hiding!

Btw, you KNOW I can relate to the Mama adventures. Somehow the frustrations brought on by mothers always seem to be so much funnier when they're happening to YOU!

deb said...

you just made my evening, cause I was fretting myself into a second glass of red , over typical family stuff, but now I am reminded how glad I am that a similar father-in-law that I love dearly , has gone to Italy for the summer.
thanks, and you are too kind with your comments on my posts :)

dede said...

what a great morning read - I will have a smile on my face today!

sadly, I have called it "pcv" before too - maybe I am just mature for my age?? (you know, if you get a NICE worker, they will cut it for you right there!)

I love your writing style, which makes me curious of what some of your favorite books are - I would love it if you shared some with me!

Julie said...

I just wanted to stop in quickly and say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your kind comments mean the world to me. My heart is so sore from grief and now things have taken a turn again for the worse..

sherri said...

Beautiful writing. You are very gifted.
Thanks for ebetering my contest. I actually linked that at Mylestones place by mistake, the next link was the correct one for her little meme.
Anyway, it lead me to your blog, which is wonderful.

Keep up the good work.

Mylestones said...

Perfect! The CPABC...I'm gonna have to incorporate that acronym into my vocab. :-)
Thanks for linking to Stories in my Pocket!

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